‘Kaizen’ is the Japanese word for ‘improvement’. And ‘Kaizen’ is one of the core principles of the legendary Toyota Production System, which is based on the principle continuous improvement and innovation. There is no calling into question the efficiency of this system at the Japanese carmaker’s production line, but there was a point in time when it seemed Toyota failed to effectively employ the same principle towards building its brand image. While its reputation for dependability and quality was bulletproof, the world’s largest automaker appeared clueless as to how ‘Kaizen’ could be translated into the design and driving dynamics aspects of its cars. Thankfully, that was just a transient phase, and with family scion Akio Toyoda taking over the reins and stressing on the desperate need to infuse athleticism and verve into the brand’s models, there has been an obvious transformation across the range over the past few years. And nowhere is this revolution more apparent than in the brand’s flagship saloon for the international markets, the Avalon.
If the previous, fourth-generation Avalon that came out in 2013 constituted a big step towards this image makeover with more muscular lines and paddle shifters, the fifth-gen model that has been launched in the Middle East now is a giant leap. This new model is a far cry from the previous generations. Evidently set on enticing a younger audience, Toyota has suffused the new Avalon with sharp, sportier styling, solid, more dynamic underpinnings, and lots of technology features.
The development goal is said to have been to make this a “Daring Sedan”, and the designers seem to have taken the brief seriously. The bodywork is more chiseled than ever before, and the wide and low stance adds to its strapping, hunkered down looks. The lower portion of the origami-inspired, gaping signature grille takes almost 90 per cent of the front bumper real estate but the designers have exercised restraint in the rest of the car, with the profile and the rear exuding elegance and a fastback kind of litheness in equal measure.
The interior is also suitably contemporary. In fact, this is arguably the best designed and best crafted cabin in any Toyota model. The 9.0in multimedia display, a 10.0in adjustable colour head-up display, perforated leather seats, wood trim, ambient illumination, dual-zone automatic air conditioning system, 14-speaker JBL surround sound system, and wireless charging system for smartphones all help keep the passenger cell plush and up to date. The tallest of passengers can stretch out in comfort at the back, with a driver and passenger of above average height occupying the front seats. Seats are extremely comfortable and supportive and offer numerous adjustment options so that you can easily find the best seating position.
The good old 3.5-litre V6 block has been tweaked to produce 298bhp and 356Nm of torque. This is a substantial improvement over the previous model’s output figures of 273bhp and 336Nm. It’s mated to an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission, which is perceptibly smoother in its shifts than the six-speed unit it replaces. It comes with three drive modes, Eco, Normal and Sport. There is no discernible difference in the first two, but pressing the Sport button alters steering and throttle responses. Steering is reassuringly heavy and engaging to a certain degree, especially in Sport mode. However, despite its sporty pretensions, where the Avalon excels is in providing a smooth, luxurious ride quality that is unmatched in the non-premium large saloon class. It’s a better car to drive than before, but it’s best to leave it in Normal, gear shifter in D, and sit back and enjoy while the computers work their magic.
As you would expect in this class, safety has been given due focus, with features such as 10 airbags, Vehicle Stability Control, Traction Control, Anti-lock Braking System, Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, Brake Assist, Electric Parking Brake with Brake Hold function, Blind Spot Monitor, Rear Cross-Traffic Alert, and Hill-start Assist Control. These features are further augmented by the Toyota Safety Sense safety technology package that includes Pre-Collision System, Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, Lane Departure Alert, and Automatic High Beam.
Available in eight exterior colours, including two new hues, Slate Gray and Blackish Brown, the all-new Avalon is available across all Al-Futtaim Toyota showrooms for Dh144,900 including VAT for the SE+ model and Dh164,900 for the Limited grade. The biggest obstacle for the previous Avalon was the fact that the Lexus ES350 was available for a few thousands more, offering the same platform, more features, and a more premium badge. Although a new ES is already on sale, the price difference between the two is markedly more than before, with the Lexus starting at Dh195,000.
So if you are in the market for a good looking, roomy, comfortable, safe and feature-packed full-size saloon that drives well, and is loaded with features, the 2019 Avalon should be right at the top of your list.